Blog Entry

The final word on The $4 Million Dollar Man

Posted on: July 11, 2008 12:36 pm

Bill Martin is a businessman, a great one judging by his resume. A billion-dollar developer of residential and commercial property, Michigan's AD also founded the Bank of Ann Arbor before moving to the athletic side.

It's hard to figure, then, how Martin ever let it get to this point at Michigan. Columnists with a lot more business acumen than me have been torturing keyboards this week in the analysis of Rich Rodriguez' buyout agreement. See, it isn't an agreement at all. It was a bailout. Michigan is picking up $2.5 million of the $4 million Rich Rod owes West Virginia.

Martin had to know it was going to end this way -- with his coach owing the entire $4 mil and Michigan paying part of the bill. I have questions. Then, below, I have some comments from Rodriguez from a June interview.

--Did Martin, that shrewd businessman, read the court documents? In hindsight, it was a fairly cut-and-dried deal.

--How did he not tell Rodriguez that the coach didn't have much wriggle room on this one? In the end the issue was simple: The coach's name was on the contract agreeing to the buyout.

--Assuming Martin did his due diligence why wasn't this issue addressed before, or shortly before, Rodriguez signed at Michigan? Shoving the two-ton elephant to the corner is the exact same thing Rodriguez did when he signed his last West Virginia contract.

Instead, Rodriguez, West Virginia and Michigan were needlessly dragged through the mud. Obama has handlers to spin things when the presidential candidate dares to deviate from his well-crafted script.

Colleges have, well, I've said this for years ... College athletics needs an image consultant. From ham-handed SIDS and public information officers (the overwhelming majority are great people, by the way), to despotic coaches to bankers-turned-AD, the industry knows squat about crisis management. It knows how to let coaches shut down practices. It knows how to limit media access to players whose scholarships are subsidized by the public. It knows how to let a coach chase rainbows in court.

Just being congenial human beings sometimes is a lost art. We long for fall Saturdays and March Madness. We get seat licenses sucking loyal alums dry. We get tuition increases to pay for flat screens in players' lockers. We get ... corporate b.s. There's a situation in Kansas right now involving the university and a local T-shirt maker. Larry Sinks owns in Lawrence, Kan. (please, look it up). Kansas contends in a lawsuit that Sinks' is selling unlicensed Kansas gear.

Sinks does not use Kansas trademarks or logos. In fact, the shirts are some of the most devious and creative I've ever seen.

--In reference to overweight coach Mark Mangino: Our Coach is Phat!
--Same reference: Our Coach Can Eat Your Coach
--Transpose the first letters and you'll find out what KU thinks of rival Missouri: Muck Fizzou

Kansas is no different from most schools when it comes to "officially licensed" merch. It is tired, old, over-priced and pretty much sucks. As a longtime consumer of logo gear let me say this: Creativity (and affordability) go out the door when licenses are signed.

The school, obviously, is making a killing on its stuff after winning basketball's national championship. According to Sinks, he is trying to get through life day to day after being slapped with the lawsuit. His storefront on Massachusetts St. in Lawrence is unassuming and modest. But apparently Kansas has determined Sinks has established a lucrative beach head in raiding the school's coffers.

Kansas essentially is trying to say it owns the rights to the color blue and the word "Kansas". The case could be landmark if the jury decides that a shirt with the phrase "If You Mess With The Bird, You Get The Beak," constitutes a licensing violation.

The state itself is named after the Kansa Indian tribe. Using NCAA logic, the school should be barred from wearing anything with the word "Kansas" on it. The NCAA has set arbitrary rules for schools using Indian nicknames. How is Illini "hostile and abusive", as the NCAA put it, and the state name, Illinois, isn't. Both refer to Indian tribes?

How "Seminoles" is less offensive than Indians or Tribe (William and Mary) is a case of palms being greased. The Seminole tribe has a business arrangement with Florida State.

Anyway, back to Rich Rod. Back in June he told me that West Virginia's intent was extend the lawsuit into the fall; not only bleed him dry but distract him from his job. With fall practice looming, it became time for everyone to move on.

Here is Rodriguez' take on the issues taken from that early June interview in Ann Arbor:

 "I was always pushing for things for the program at West Virginia. But that was my job. People say I was petty. I was thinking the other way.

"I was told (by administration), 'Don't worry about (the buyout) ...  We'll reduce it or eliminate it. I don't believe in buyouts.' That's what I was told by the No. 1 boss at the school (president Michael Garrison).

"(I was told), 'We've got to get (the contract) done right now. There's pressure from the governor, to the board to the president.' Maybe I should have had an attorney present. I was getting ready to start practice in a week.

"I probably didn't tell enough in my deposition, how many times I was told, 'Just trust us." That phrase, 'Just trust me,' went on for five or six months.

"I had a meeting with the president before I left. One of the things I said was, 'Here I've been at a place seven years and we've done some pretty good things. You're telling me no to everything. Where there's another school with great tradition, great opportunity telling me, yes.' I said 'I'm getting confused. It should be the other way around.' That was probably the most shocking thing to me, the actions of the president."

Finally, let's end this mega-blog with an anecdote. Shortly after Rodriguez took the Michigan job, his wife Rita was back in West Virginia grocery shopping. A bag boy noticed the Michigan plates while taking the groceries to her car.

"When you go back to Michigan, tell that guy Rodriguez, 'Blah, blah, blah,' Rodriguez quoted the bag boy as saying.

"That's my husband," Rita Rodriguez said.

"Why did he leave?" the bagger replied.

After relaying the story, Rodriguez leaned back and said, "It's time to move on."

Consider that the last words on the subject. Aren't you ready for some football, Michigan?



Since: Oct 18, 2007
Posted on: July 14, 2008 9:14 am

The final word on The $4 Million Dollar Man

Even on some bs story about Michigan and Dick-Rod, Dodd finds a way to talk about Mizzu.  What a freakin homer, like always...

Since: Mar 14, 2008
Posted on: July 13, 2008 6:09 am

The final word on The $4 Million Dollar Man

Yeah, michigan fans are always looking for ways to distract ourselves from UM football...gosh...we never have anything to look forward to...train wreck right around the bend...'cause thats happened in, like, 50 years? Enjoy your moment...UM ain't had a losing season in about 40 years. Bet you ain't even that old. Bet you think that don't matter. How 'bout your team? You a buckeye? Guess you forgot. You a trojan? Guess you forgot. Whatever team you support...40 years...guess you forgot. Kind of like making the playoffs every year years. WV lost a great coach because they didn't fund him. Period. If they had, he'd probably still be there. The guy clearly loved WV, he wanted to take it higher, but wasn't supported by the administration of the university for his vision. UM gave him the bigger stage and he took it. Would you not have done the same? And, by the way, 2.5 mill is a lot of money...just not a lot to UM. Go away, young'un.

Since: Sep 4, 2006
Posted on: July 12, 2008 10:22 pm

The final word on The $4 Million Dollar Man

Actually, no they are not. Michigan fans would prefer for this story to keep showing up in the papers for the next six or so months to detract from the train wreck that the Michigan football team has become. When Michigan enters the month of November with all of three wins to their name, ask them this same question again?

Since: Sep 30, 2007
Posted on: July 12, 2008 3:39 pm

The final word on The $4 Million Dollar Man

No we didn't forget about 2002 and the phantom pass interference call from all the way across the field! Are you serious, I can't believe you had the nerve to put that up there.

Since: Jun 6, 2008
Posted on: July 12, 2008 12:22 pm

The final word on The $4 Million Dollar Man

Why do they keep getting into the championship? why?why? Man, you sound like my 4 year old whining. They keep getting there because they keep earning it. While OSU got into the championship game even though they lost to Illinois, others couldn't keep from losing either. Bowl games are aberations which show very little of what a team is like throughout the year. Remember, whenever OSU goes to the next NC game and wins, they'll be batting .500. (did you forget about the 2002 win against one of the strongest teams ever?)

Since: Jan 17, 2008
Posted on: July 12, 2008 9:38 am

The final word on The $4 Million Dollar Man

Excellent post, eersfan70!  let me add a few additional points:

  • In an effort to improve their position, the Rodriguez camp started slinging mud at WVU almost immediately after the announcement in an attempt to swing public opinion against WVU.  My God, they even tried to drag the race-card into it.
  • Records prove that Michigan and Rodriguez discussed the buyout at their clandestine meeting in Toledo, as one of the rejected offers addressed the buyout.  I believe the reason all of this took so long to get resolved is they agreed at that meeting that Michigan would help with the buyout, but Rodriguez would do all he could to negotiate it down.  Michigan just sat back and waited until WVU turned up the heat by filing for subpoenas against Mary Sue Coleman and Bill Martin.  They had weathered the heat unscathed to that point, but now the heat was too close for comfort.   This issue could have been resolved months ago if Michigan had just anted up sooner.
  • The Rodriguez camp made a colossal blunder by trying to bully WVU into negotiating down the buyout.  John Beilein had a similar buyout clause in his contract with WVU, but he was above board and honorable in his handling of the situation.  As a result, he left on good terms.  His lawyers also took a different approach with WVU.  They argued that his leaving prematurely would not really cost WVU $2.5 Mil in damages.  In this manner, they were able to negotiate a reduced settlement.  Rodriguez's camp chose to attack WVU in the court of public opinion as a bully tactic.  This damage to the school's reputation only steeled WVU's resolve and eliminated the possibility for a "reduced damages" settlement like Beilein's.  In effect, Rodriguez cut his own throat when it came to room for negotiating down the buyout. 

Since: Jan 17, 2008
Posted on: July 12, 2008 8:58 am

The final word on The $4 Million Dollar Man

1. West Virginia dislikes Rich Rod (no kidding)

2. Michigan dislikes bad publicity (duh)

3. Rich Rod wants to coach football (whew!)

4. OSU still can't beat the SEC

Funny, but I didn't see one word in Dodd's blog column about The Ohio State University.  To take an unprompted, gratuitous slap at OSU is proof that you have a bad case of Buckeye Envy.  Not to worry, I take it as a great compliment.

Go Bucks!

Since: Sep 2, 2006
Posted on: July 12, 2008 8:30 am

The final word on The $4 Million Dollar Man

Wait a minute. Sold out by the administration?? Let's back up a few steps. Coach Rodriguez wasn't "sold out" by anybody but his agent, and himself. I don't doubt that he was probably told by different people that the buyout would be handled (ie: reduced or eliminated) eventually. But, I don't think that any of those people in authority at West Virginia expected him to jump ship barely six months after he signed the contract.

Remember, this was a guy who was born and raised in West Virginia, attended WVU and even played his college ball there. When he took the head coaching position, he told everybody "I'm finally home.....this is my dream final stop", etc. Nobody had any reason to doubt him. After all, this was "one of our own" who was coaching our football team. Even as recently as December, before he left, he told reporters "I'll be here, as long as they'll have me".

However, as sweet as this marriage between him and the university sounded, it really wasn't. Seemingly each season, his agent had been shopping his name around to every major university that was looking for a new head coach. Every year, WVU would have to address a list of demands made by Rodriguez in order for him to stay. The latest examples were, of course, Alabama, and then finally, Michigan. I realize Coach Rodriguez wanted to push things at WVU to improve the program, but holding the threat of leaving for another job over the administration's head every time was the wrong way to do it.

Ask yourself, if you went to your employer each year.....told them you received an offer to work for someone else, but that you would stay if you were maybe given a better parking space, an extra vacation day, etc. How many times do you think you could do that before they decided to let you walk away? Right, I thought so. This situation is not so different.

This "gun to the head" negotiating tactic had gotten old. Finally, the AD, and the university president had had enough. Despite the protests of a few of the school's largest contributing alumni, they told him to just worry about coaching the team, or else take his "other offer". Rodriguez then felt like he had no other alternative but to leave. Probably so, but he should remember how things got to that point.

The university then demanded payment of the $4M liquidated damages clause (buyout clause) that was agreed to in the contract. This clause could only be activated for the full amount if he left for another school before the start of training camp the following year. This was barely six months later. I can't blame WVU for wanting paid.....what amounts to a penalty. A contract/agreement had been broken.

As for Rodriguez's claims that "promises had been broken", saying that some program upgrades that had been asked for, had not yet been completed. Most of those requests were already underway, or to be started after the season had ended. In fact, many of those new upgrades have been installed and will be ready for 2008. So, that argument isn't as strong as some would lead you to believe.

All of this because a coach and his agent were playing their game. They gambled this time and lost at WVU, but won at UM. The true losers in all of this were the players/fans/alumni of West Virginia University.

The reason people at West Virginia were so hurt by all of this is because we trusted "our guy" to never treat us like it was just another job. Our mistake. We all know college coaches are mercenaries. We just expected more from "one of our own".

Since: Jan 8, 2008
Posted on: July 12, 2008 3:26 am

Aren't you ready for some football, Michigan?

Yes, Dodd, I am...

Who isn't sick of hearing about this? Here is a check list of things that we now understand, and understood about 12 hours after he took the Michigan job.

1. West Virginia dislikes Rich Rod (no kidding)

2. Michigan dislikes bad publicity (duh)

3. Rich Rod wants to coach football (whew!)

4. OSU still can't beat the SEC

How do they keep getting in to the championship? Is the BCS getting money from Tressel now too? Where are the players going to get their money?

Since: Apr 21, 2007
Posted on: July 11, 2008 10:14 pm

The final word on The $4 Million Dollar Man

This was a very well-written article. Great parallels. I'm a Michigan fan and this is the first time I've heard anything resembling Rodriguez getting sold out by the WVU administration. The media has painted this guy as the villain. So, it's nice to read the other side.

The NCAA as an organization is lame - a bunch of money hungry sleaze bags. This JoeCollege guy is just using a little ingenuity in his business. Call it the former American Way because the American Way this century comes with a contract, lawyers, media assassins, etc.

I find it comical that the NCAA has royally screwed the legacy of our Native American brothers by removing their historical tribes from the headlines. Now, how will the average person ever learn about the Illini or the Sioux other than what they read in test books in grade school...if they are even mentioned more than a paragraph.

The NCAA isn't alone on this one. I believe the Indian tribes had their lobbyists pushing for this also, is this not true? With sites like WIkipedia doing so well I would think that these tribes would want the recognition to keep their history alive in more places than a casino.

The NCAA is worse than professional sports. At least the players get paid out in the open. Pro sports don't hide the fact that they want to make money.

I was in Ann Arbor this past May and all the Michigan Nike apparel was on clearance because of the Adidas deal. Or, maybe it was the other way around. Anyhow, the point is that I just wanted a Michigan shirt. I didn't care if it was Nike or Adidas. I think the NCAA has forgotten about that.

I bought the one on clearance.

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or